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A Tribute to Mr. Earl Gray 1992-2012

By Michele C. Hollow of Pet News and Views

My heart and home  feel empty. The other night as I looked over at the big easy chair where Earl Gray usually sits, it was empty too. After 15 years of living with Earl, we had to put him down.

Mr. Earl Gray, 1992-2012

We were really blessed when Earl Gray walked into our lives. My husband, Steven, and I came home from a June wedding. It was one a.m. on a Sunday.  Waiting for us on our front porch was this scraggly cat with a badly broken leg. The break was internal—no bleeding; it was bad.

A few weeks before, we had seen Earl in our backyard. Earl actually belonged to one of my neighbors.

We opened our front door, and Earl with tail raised high and curled (a happy sign for a cat) hobbled in. He acted as if he owned the place. Fortunately, I had cat food in our house. A week prior to Earl entering our house, our cat Belle died. She was 19. I found Belle and her brother, Gigolo, at a newspaper office where I worked. It was my first reporting job. I grew up in New York, and moved to southern Louisiana—3 ½ hours south of New Orleans. Under a production table with piles of newspaper, a cat came in and had a litter of four kittens. I took two, and the other kittens and mom were adopted by my coworkers.

I was very close to Belle. Her brother, Gigolo, died at age 15. It was a great loss. Everyone loved Gigolo—even people who didn’t like cats. He was incredibly friendly. Belle, on the other hand, was my cat. She was always by my side.

After she passed, I knew I would get another cat someday—but not too soon. Earl had other ideas. A week after Belle’s passing here was Earl on our front porch.

Steven told our neighbor that we found his cat.  When he said he had a badly broken leg. The owner thanked him and said, bring him to me, and I will have him put down. Steven said no, and we took Earl to our vet.

Our wonderful veterinarian, Marc Levine, DVM, in South Orange, NJ, happened to be in his office on a Sunday. I called him because he made himself available to us when Belle got sick. He was always there for us. He looked at Earl and said he seemed healthy, except for the broken leg. He also estimated that he was about five years old. Dr. Levine recommended that we take Earl to an orthopedic veterinarian. Earl came home in a cast, which made one leg slightly longer than the rest.

We have steps in our house and Steven put a five-foot barrier at the base of the front stairs. Our goal was to block Earl from climbing up the stairs. We feared that he would tumble down. He surprised us when we came home from work, and found him staring at us from the top of the stairs. Next to him was his cast. I still don’t know how he managed to get it off. He did this several times.

Earl quickly became part of the family, and three-and-a-half years later when Jordon was born, Earl had to adjust to a baby in the house. I remember the nurse in the hospital overhearing one of my conversations about Earl to a friend. She later asked me what I was going to do with the cat when I brought my child home. I truly didn’t understand the question, and later learned that some people get rid of their pets when they have children. That didn’t even cross my mind.

I remember Earl sniffing Jordon, and eventually, the two of them became buddies.

Earl offered us so much comfort. He often sat across my desk when I wrote. We shared a pillow at night.

Over the past year, he developed an overactive thyroid, which we treated with medicine and then with a special diet. Within the last few months he started urinating all over the house, losing weight, and his fur lost a lot of its sheen. He wasn’t grooming himself like he used to.

Still, he purred when we pet him, and came when we called. He was always underfoot, and we liked it that way.

A couple of months ago, I took Earl to our veterinarian. Dr. Levine was on vacation. His partner, Diana M. Knight, VMD, saw Earl. She did a series of tests, and found his kidneys were failing. He had other ailments, which she treated.

I brought Earl back a month later, and Dr. Knight saw how scraggly he appeared. He wasn’t fully grooming himself, and his eyes were cloudy. He was thin and frail. She said we could give him subcutaneous fluids, which would buy us some time, but she could not guarantee a good quality of life.

Steven gave Belle subcutaneous fluids. It bought her a few good days, but she rapidly declined. So, here I was in the vet’s office with Dr. Knight, who suggested euthanasia. I don’t use that word lightly. I believe in euthanasia for when anyone is extremely ill and has slim to no chances of recovery.

Dr. Knight must have spent 40 minutes with me, listening to me go back and forth about what to do. I swear I don’t remember being so muddled.

I decided to take Earl home because Steven was away on business. I knew he would want to say goodbye to Earl too.

After I brought Earl home, I called Steven, and then made an appointment to euthanize Earl on Monday. We spent the entire weekend with him.  One of the hardest parts of all of this was telling Jordon. Jordon knew Earl all of his life, and even though the news broke his heart, I didn’t want Jordon coming home from school and not finding Earl here without knowing what was really going on. I thought he should know the truth. I didn’t want to bring Jordon with us when we were putting Earl down. He said his goodbyes the night before and before he left for school.

On the day we brought Earl into the vet, everyone there was completely supportive. Dr. Knight assured us that we were doing a kind thing.

We stayed with Earl during the procedure. Dr. Knight comforted us.  Dr. Levine came in too, and so did a lot of the staff. They were so caring. Earl left this life in a loving environment. Steven and I got to say our goodbyes.

The other night I stared at the empty chair. And when I came downstairs in the morning to start my routine, I felt empty. My morning ritual is preparing breakfast for Jordon and Earl. We all play together and are a family before Jordon goes off for school.

It is quiet in my house. We are all feeling the emptiness. Earl has left a big void.

I wanted to let everyone who reads this blog know because I did write about Earl from time-to-time. I also wanted to thank my family and dear friends and readers who heard about Earl’s passing. Thank you for your kind words.

37 comments to A Tribute to Mr. Earl Gray 1992-2012

  • Dear Michele-Earl’s story is a lovely one. From the beginning, he knew where his real home was. You and your family provided a loving home for Earl. I’m sure he appreciated all that you gave him. I’m so sorry for your loss. He’ll be remembered fondly. HPN

  • What a wonderful tribute Michel. A tear I couldn’t hold back is running down my face.

    I’m very sorry for you family’s loss. My condolences.

    Rest in Peace dear Mr. Earl Gray ♥

  • Maureen Bennett

    A loving and moving tribute. Thank you for shaing a little bit of Earl’s life with us!

  • I know had sad you must feel. It’s so hard when a pet that’s been so much a part of your life is suddenly no longer there.

    I dealt with the same thing last year with my beloved Bo. I adored him, and he felt the same about me. Didn’t feel I could ever let another cat into my home or heart, but due to a variety of circumstances Marty came to me a couple of months to the day after Bo’s passing. I believe Bo brought him to me, and I can feel Bo’s presence often when I’m interacting with Marty.

    You won’t forget Earl and all he brought to your life, but when he feels the time is right he’ll bring you another kitty to care for. In the meantime, take care.

  • What a beautiful note. I totally agree that that is the way it happens. Michele

  • Kim

    Michele – Thank you for sharing Earl’s story, and his personality. I loved reading about his spunkiness (just how did he get that cast off?!), and how he moved right in with you, and became such an integral part of all your lives. I’m so sorry for your loss…my heart’s heavy for you right now. Take care.

  • Just tears… Absolutely beautiful, Michele. We’re so lucky to know you as a writer, just as Earl was lucky to have had you as family. Thank you so much for sharing this.

  • Brooke

    Such a touching story, Michele. Your love for Earl beams out of your words. Thinking of you during this difficult time. HPN

  • I’m so sorry for your loss. You gave Earl a good and long life. All hail Earl.

  • Oh, Michele. I am so, so, so, sorry. xo

  • Elaine

    What a beautiful tribute, Michele. It sounds like Belle sent Earl, and he knew it was wise advice! What a great home and good second (-#9) life he found with you guys. Thinking of you, and sending hugs and purrs.

  • Roseann

    Dear Michele
    I am so sorry for your loss. You and your family gave Earl a loving home and did all that you could for him up until the very end. I think the hardest thing to do is to make that decision to put a pet down, but in the end, it is the most unselfish decision, especially if they are truly suffering.
    We, too, had a cat come into our lives by chance. She was a stray in our backyard who latched onto my husband. I never wanted a cat in my house, we are primarily dog lovers, but in the three years Patches has been here she has brought us so much joy. Hopefully, you will soon get another cat who brings you as much happiness as Earl did.
    Karen, I think your message to Michele was so touching.

  • nancy

    I knew that little guy and he was a welcoming site – almost always. Animals often find their families – in spite of what we humans do. I have had foundies in the past, whether i actually did the finding or not. In fact many loving friends I have were also “found “too. One friend even called her cat FOUNDIE. This story is a true and precious one. I am sorry for the empty chair. I am sorry for the emptiness in your hearts too. Peace to Earl – no one could have loved a cat more to my way of seeing things. Thanks for the loving tribute; i believe you will change hearts and minds through the graciousness of your words – so that others may pause before deciding to put their kitten or dog to sleep until the time has come. Earl’s time had come. Blessings and peace and thanks Michele and Steven and Jordan too for loving Earl so much.

  • David

    I am truly sorry for Earl’s passing. I have stayed in that house and remember Earl, but had no idea he was nearly 20 years old. He was a happy cat and looked young and lithe. He was used to receiving love. You took over the care of a lovely cat and made a success of it. I know it seems sad, but this is also a moment of congratulations and rejoicing.

  • I am sorry to hear of your loss and, unfortunately, can relate. Animals come into our lives and bring so much sunshine and happiness it blesses our hearts to no end. It sounds like you were truly blessed by Earl. Mark Twain once said, “When I die, I want to go where the dogs (cats) go when they die.” My prayers are with you and your family at this time of loss.

  • Anita

    I am so sorry to hear of Earl’s passing. I hope your heart heals soon from its broken state. I have enjoyed hearing about Earl in your blog and will miss him too. All of you were lucky to know one another.

  • Dianne

    So sorry to hear of your loss. Earl Gray was smart to have claimed your home, and you, as his. He’ll always claim a piece of your heart. I too shed some tears upon hearing the news. Sympathy to the rest of your family as well.

  • My heart goes out to you and your family. I love the image of Earl sitting at the top of the stairs with the cast beside him. Take care all.

  • Michelle – I am so sorry for your loss. It’s so hard losing a beloved pet, but you did what you felt was best. He had a long and happy life with you and your family, and he left knowing that he was well-loved. RIP Earl Gray.

  • P. Elizabeth

    I loved Earl Gray, and I never met him, but you know why. My deepest and sincerest condolences, Michele. Earl’s soul is now ripping and running where we will all get to rip and run together again. Big hugs and I leave you with this:

    “We who choose to surround ourselves with lives even more temporary than our own, live within a fragile circle; easily and often breached. Unable to accept its awful gaps, we would still live no other way. We cherish memory as the only certain immortality, never fully understanding the necessary plan.”

    ― Irving Townsend

  • Toni

    What a great story!! I too know how hard that is. i had to put down our 18 year old cat – I don’t know who cried longer me or my husband. Even my parents treated him as a grandchild. We brought him home to bury in the back yard under the trees. My mom was a artist and painted a stepping stone and put it on his grave so we would always remember. I’m sorry for your loss but I know you have great memories!!

  • margaret

    Michelle, I am so sorry for your loss.

  • I’m so sorry to hear this news, Michele.I felt like I knew him from your references to him in your blog. He was a gorgeous cat and I know a wonderful member of your family.

  • Oh Michele, I am so sorry for your loss. Earl Gray was a blessing in your life, part of the family, and you all were a blessing to him too. I know that if he could talk he would thank you everyday for providing him with such a healthy and happy life. I have seen too many animals decay and live miserable months until they finally died of natural causes. Earl Gray is lucky to have had you all to help him cross the rainbow bridge with dignity and peace, and most of all, painless and with all of youa round him, sending him much love.
    If I could I’d give you a big hug now, Michele. I know how sad you must feel, but know that you did all you could and that all of us your readers are here thinking of you. With love,


  • So sorry, Michele. Beautifully written and my fave part was when Earl was at the top of the stairs looking down with his cast next to him. They are little rascals, aren’t they? He will RIP and is welcomed by all of his new friends over the Rainbow Bridge.

  • Earl Gray! What a beautiful boy, and most loving soul. Your tribute is absolutely beautiful Michele, and I want to thank you for sharing moments from Earl’s life, and your love for each other. The sky just got a bit brighter as another star twinkles and shines. My heart is with yours, and huge hugs and much love being sent to you and your family.

  • Michele, I have been in touch and you know I am here for you always. Earl has had a wonderful life and as I sit hear wiping tears, I know all too well, the road you walk. Our deepest condolences, my friend.

  • Bev

    What a beautiful tribute. I’m here for you, my friend, anytime.

  • Jessica Sala

    So very sorry for your loss!

  • So very sorry for your loss of Earl Gray. He sounds like he was a fabulous cat from day 1. (((hugs))) What a great story.

  • Diana

    Michele – having been through this so often during the last 7 years, I read your message through blurry eyes. My deepest condolences, and virtual hugs. I hope Earl sends you a new kitty as Belle did. Hugs.

  • Meghan Grace

    What a beautiful tribute to Earl Gray. I’m really sorry for your family’s loss.

  • Michele, I’m so sorry to hear you had to let a wonderful kitty go. What a story to remember through him, a part of three lives for 15 years. I hope that in time another kitty, sent by your kitty angels, wanders into your lives.

  • What a beautiful tribute Michele. It’s so hard loosing a pet 🙁 I hope as time goes by it gets a little easier. I’m sure he’s flying in pet heaven with the angels 🙂

  • Oh Michele, I’m so sorry to learn of Earl’s passing. This is a beautiful tribute and Earl was a very smart kitty to choose to life with you! I know how much you all loved him. With time I hope your broken hearts will heal and you’ll find peace in 15 years of happy memories.

  • Nidhi Tomar

    Hi Michelle, so sorry to hear about Earl. I knew that Earl would not be able to make it when I met you in September. This is a beautiful tribute to someone I know you loved so much. My hugs to you and your family!

  • ErinS

    I loved reading this tribute…laughed out loud at Mr Earl sitting on the top of your steps, cast-less. He will be missed.